The superlative collection of Jamaican art housed by the National Gallery is the finest on the island and should on no account be missed. As well as offering a distinctly Jamaican take on international artistic trends, the collection attests to the vitality of the country’s artistic heritage as well as its present talent.
The collection is organized chronologically, introduced by Taíno carvings and traditional 18th-century British landscapes, whose initial beauty belies the fact that their subjects include many slave plantations. Several galleries represent the Jamaican school from 1922 to the present. Highlights include the bold sculptures of Edna Manley, the vibrant ‘intuitive’ paintings of artists including John Dunkley and David Pottinger, and revivalist bishop Mallica ‘Kapo’ Reynolds. Other displays chart the course of Jamaican art up to the present, including abstract religious works by Carl Abrahams, Colin Garland’s surrealist Caribbean fantasias, ethereal assemblages by David Boxer, and the work of realist Barrington Watson.
Temporary exhibition spaces frequently offer up the best of contemporary Jamaican art, as seen during the superb biennial temporary exhibition that takes place on alternate (even-numbered) years between mid-December and March.